Building on Nature, Markegard Farms

By Jessie Flo McDonald, EFA Special Events Coordinator

San Gregorio lies on a sort of forgotten, out-of-the-way section of the California coast.  It’s in between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, and you can easily miss it by taking the highway between these destinations instead of the coast.  If you do choose to take the ocean route, you are in for a treat because the smells and sights of this stretch are delightfully tranquil.

In San Gregorio, you will also find Markegard Family Grass-Fed, a family run grass-fed meat operation which holds to the highest of standards with it’s pastured beef, lamb, pork and chickens.  Markegard grazes their cattle over six separate ranches in the area, but the family resides on the home ranch of 1,000 acres.  Twenty-five years ago, Erik Markegard began developing this land and, because of his childhood on a ranch, he knew to develop the water infrastructure right away.

Markegard Family Grass-Fed utilizes keyline design on their property to manage their water and keep their pastures green just about year round.  Keyline design is a system which redirects rainwater run-off to be collected in a network of un-lined ponds around a piece of land.  The rainwater is re-directed through off contour lines that are “ripped” with a specific plow, called the Yeoman’s Plow.   Because the water is taking a less natural path than what simple gravity would dictate, it moves more slowly across the landscape and is able to infiltrate the land broadly, instead of just running over it.

The ponds utilized in this system are unlined so that the water collected can seep back into the ground as well.  Each pond is different, but they can create a brilliant site for wildlife watching and recreation!  KeyLine Design is a holistic practice that takes a good amount of planning and can be a process of trial and error.   However, it is easy on the land and in the end, it really works with nature in a passive way to ensure efficient rainwater use and cuts down on erosion.

For more information on Markegard Family Grass-Fed’s practices, or on where to buy their fresh food please visit!


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